BSO’s Somerset home in Yeovil

THE Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has a new residency in Somerset, at Yeovil’s Octagon Theatre. The long-term relationship was announced on the eve of a BSO concert at the theatre in November.

The new residency will provide greater access to world-class music for communities in Somerset when the theatre, which is managed by South Somerset District Council, reopens after a £29m transformation to become a flagship cultural venue for the South West.

As resident orchestra, local audiences will have access to more symphonic performances by the BSO and its international conductors and soloists, alongside more family-friendly BSO On Your Doorstep chamber-scale concerts, workshops and events.

The BSO returns on Saturday 19th November, when chief conductor Kirill Karabits leads the orchestra in a programme of Schubert, Mendelssohn and Walton, with violinist Ning Feng.

The partnership will see a regular concert series at the Octagon alongside an exciting and ambitious education and outreach programme designed to bring world-class musical opportunities to residents and visitors of Somerset.

The Octagon transformation plans include increasing the number of seats from 622-seat to 900 seats with vastly improved acoustics in the main auditorium and additional performance and participatory spaces. There will also be an arts engagement outreach programme that will create more opportunities for people to engage and benefit from the creative arts through schools, performances, workshops, regular classes and special projects that will focus on those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Octagon theatre manager, Adam Burgan said: “I am absolutely delighted that we can announce this partnership with the amazing Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. As one of UK’s best loved orchestras it will be fantastic to make the developed Octagon Theatre their new home in Somerset. Everyone deserves the opportunity to listen, watch and be inspired by music.  Work with BSO’s amazing Participate team will create more opportunities for our communities to have access to and be enriched by BSO’s talented musicians.”

BSO chief executive Dougie Scarfe says: “We’re looking forward to deepening our relationship with communities in Somerset, with even more live concerts from the full orchestra, plus chamber-scale concerts, workshops and events. Bringing music into people’s lives is why we exist, and we remain committed to reaching people who need our music, now more than ever.”

Councillor Mike Best, who is chairman of Somerset Council and South Somerset’s portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, says: “For too long our residents have had to travel outside of Somerset to experience the type of performances and projects that this partnership will bring.

“Our ambitious and forward-thinking plans to develop the Octagon Theatre into a flagship regional centre of excellence for the arts are already proving to be a catalyst for change with South Somerset designated a ‘priority place’ for Arts Council England. I am thrilled to see this partnership develop, which I hope will be the first of many.”

Earlier this year there were three successful BSO On Your Doorstep events at Yeovil’ s Westlands venue, aimed at introducing people of all ages to live classical music in a relaxed environment. More of these concerts as well as schools concerts are planned in 2023.

Photographs of Kirill Karabits and members of the orchestra by Mark Allan; violinist Ning Feng, photograph by Tianyou Zhang